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Perfect Match Parties

Risotto table Photo: Chris Berggren/Sonoma Custom Image
Give four people each a glass of the same wine and they'll have four different responses. That's because everyone's taste buds and perceptions are different. To make your pairing experiments even more interesting, invite some friends over and try these ideas for a tasting party:

> For a small group, try a pairing in which you gradually build the dish. Taste it with wine along the way. To begin, choose a wine and a small dish that will pairs well with it. Present the ingredients separately, and arrange them around a table or counter where everyone can reach. Each person can now build an appetizer piece by piece, noticing how each new ingredient changes how the wine tastes. You might try a bruschetta, starting with the ingredient that provides the main flavor then add to it. Desserts work well, too, perhaps a dish of gelato or sorbet to which you add fresh fruit and mint. Have some extra Toolbox ingredients handy so people can adjust the finished dish for a pairing tuned to their personal palates. Ask each person to prepare a sample for all the members of the group. Vote on each, and see who put together the best pairing.

Encourage your guests to try a sip, a bite, and a sip until they find the combination they like best. If you want to keep things simple, try making basic flavor bridges.
> For a medium-size group you can throw a varietal party. Choose three or four different bottles of the same type of wine and prepare an appetizer to match with the particular flavor of each. Serve all the appetizers along with all the wines. Encourage your guests to try a sip, a bite, and a sip until they find the combination they like best. If you want to keep things simple, try making basic flavor bridges. With Merlot, this could mean adding chocolate, mint, or plum. For Sauvignon Blanc, grapefruit, apple, lemon - even green beans.

Gravlax Goat
> For a large group, get your guests involved in the cooking! Set up several stations, each with its own wine and a do-it-yourself dish that compliments the wine. One station might be Syrah and a satay, where guests skewer then grill their own lamb or vegetables. Provide a selection of sauces or dips for them to try, with some toolbox ingredients to add as desired. Another station could be as simple as Beaujolais with figs and prosciutto, in which guests taste the wine with each ingredient, then the two as a pair. As always, have some Toolbox ingredients available for fine-tuning, perhaps with signs explaining how they might alter the perception of the wine.

Eat well!